For the three Welsh regions that are currently plying their trade in the top European competition, so far this year they are currently one win from nine.
With Wales’ international side having such a disappointing Autumn International period, it’s making for depressing reading results wise in Welsh rugby so far this year.
With the regions having already struggled in the first two rounds of the Heineken Cup, it makes it all the more strange that they were further handicapped by their own union, who insisted on arranging an international match outside of the allocated window just a week before the key games.
What resulted were three Welsh regions facing crucial European games with only at best, two full days training as complete squads. The word amateur doesn’t go far enough to describe the situation.
Some say the extra game is needed to help fund the regions, yet whilst the regions are still operating under a salary cap of circa £1million less compared to other European clubs across the border, it does beg the question – just where is this extra revenue generated by the WRU going to if not the regions? Is it simply to pay off the WRU debt? If so questions need to be asked as to just what sort of re-payment scheme has been set up, that the need to pay back the debt so quickly has been implemented at the severe cost to the regions.
That is not to say that the regions are wholly blameless either. Whilst the Ospreys put up a spirited display against European giants Toulouse, both the Blues and the Scarlets had large helping hands in their own downfall over the weekend, and their standards of play must surely improve, in spite of the limitations placed on them by the WRU.
With Welsh rugby seemingly in the doldrums it is difficult sometimes to take an objective view on a sport which at times that can capture a whole nation.
Some spark is missing in the Welsh game, professional rugby as a competition has failed to capture the imagination of the paying public at regional and even at times, international level.
It is a difficult conundrum to even attempt to unravel, and it is clear that there is not one thing to blame but several. Marketing, branding, promotion, quality, affordability, scheduling; the list goes on. There is a very real danger facing the whole of Welsh rugby at the moment, both domestic and international and for the first time perhaps in Welsh rugby’s history all factions need to work together to put things right. It might well be an impossible task.
There was an announcement last week with the forming of The Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB) from the findings of the PwC report (which is as of yet to be fully published). It makes mention of many goals without, rather irritatingly, going into any detail as to how they believe these goals can be achieved.
One is that they want the regions in Wales to be able to effectively compete at the top level of European rugby in five years. The other is to ensure continued sustainability of the Millennium Stadium. It is difficult to see without access to figures, just how they feel that they are going to be able to make both these things possible, especially with the announcement that there won’t be any extra funding coming the regions’ way.
Doubts also arise with regards to the PRGB in that a similar board was supposedly set up back in 2009 – yet have we heard anything about it since?
Despite the woes currently building in Welsh rugby, with form continuing to dwindle and yet more players deciding to leave, with Dan Lydiate being the latest, there are still glimmers of hope. The Scarlets still sit second on the Rabo Direct PRO 12, all regions have bright stars in Lee, Patchell, Morgan and Dixon coming through. It’s whether or not a balance can be struck between the Union and the regions that is truly workable that is all important. Working together to get paying fans back through the gates should be one of the key starting points.
Forget the posturing, forget the blame games, forget the every club for itself attitude. Welsh rugby needs to work together to move forward for it to have a sustainable future and make proper use of the players it is producing. Quite simply, Welsh rugby needs to grow up.